Thursday, October 23, 2008

ACLU Assails 100-Mile Border Zone as 'Constitution-Free'

As usual, the ACLU is on the frontlines of the battle where the government's use of "fear" intersects (or maybe "clashes" is a better word) with the individuals right to privacy. The fear in this instance is used to rationalize draconian, "constitution free" border patrol zones. And the people we are told to be afraid of are foreigners, terrorists, and of course, Mexicans.

The "slippery slope" argument certainly applies here. How large can this "border zone" become? If we allow these kinds of constitutional violations along our border, how long will it take before we start allowing them in the heartland? I tend to be of the opinion that anytime we weaken the fundamental principles of our Constitution for ANYONE, we weaken them for EVERYONE.

I believe this to be the case not just in practice, but also in the way we view principles like liberty, privacy, and freedom. AS time goes by, and we see these rights whittled away, watered down, or outright eviscerated, we similarly see our belief in them weakened, our confidence in them shaken, and our reverence of them debased.

Now that I've stepped off the soapbox, let's go to Wired Magazine's report (watch the video too):

Government agents should not have the right to stop and question Americans anywhere without suspicion within 100 miles of the border, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday, pointing attention to the little known power of the federal government to set up immigration checkpoints far from the nation's border lines.

The government has long been able to search people entering and exiting the country without need to say why, which is known as the border search exception of the Fourth Amendment. After 9/11, Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security the right to use some of its powers deeper within the country, and now DHS has set up at least 33 internal checkpoints where they stop people, question them and ask them to prove citizenship, according to the ACLU.


When citizens or visa holders encounter a checkpoint, most are waived on after showing identification, but if an agent suspects the person is not lawfully in the country, the agent can detain the person until the agent's investigation is satisfied. The government has long had the power to set up such check points, but has recently expanded the number of permanent and 'tactical' check points and deployed them in areas they hadn't before -- such as near the Canadian border.


The ACLU hopes that Congress will include changes to the border zone in traveler privacy protection bills that focus on prohibiting suspicion-less searches and seizures of laptops at the border. Congress is currently out of session and would not move on any legislation until sometime in 2009 at the earliest.

Click here to read more and watch...

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